search newsletterSearch News You Can Use
Episode 10 - June 5, 2017
Light version

It has been a busy two weeks! There hasn't been a major algorithm update in the last two weeks, but there have been a number of Google announcements. In this episode we'll unpack those announcements. I'll also share with you a great way to find and fix broken links using Google Analytics. This method is even better than finding broken links in Google Search Console. We'll talk about the difference between noindex and a robots.txt block, a way to see what your competitors are working on and a lot more.

There are a lot of articles in the recommended reading section as there have been some really good studies and reports published recently.

In this episode:


Paid members also get the following:

  • A really useful tip on using Google Analytics to find and fix broken links that actually have the potential to bring traffic and PageRank to your site.
  • Thorough information on noindex vs robots.txt blocks. Step by step instructions on what to do if a robots.txt blocked page is appearing in the search results.
  • Information on Google's plan to produce an ad blocker and still pay publishers for their work.
  • Is there more domain crowding in the SERPS lately? What does this mean?
  • Does an increase or decrease in crawl rate mean that a Google algorithm is about to affect your site?
  • Tip: How to tell what new content your competitors are producing.

Note: If you are seeing the light version and you are a paid member, be sure to log in (in the sidebar on desktop or below the post on mobile) and read the full article here.


Are you subscribed to my newsletter?
Get the lite version for free:

Or Subscribe to the full version for $18/month:


Latest algorithm updates

May 17, 2017 - I wrote about this algorithm change in the last newsletter. Since then I have had several emails from site owners who were hit with this update. It does appear to be a big one. Glenn Gabe has written a good summary of what he is seeing in sites that either were hit or recovered.

As is the norm now, with algorithm updates there really doesn't appear to be a single reason why sites were hit. Improving overall quality seems to be key. I have noticed that several quite large and well known sites appear to have been hit by this algorithmic change. Hopefully I will have more information for you after I have analyzed more sites.

As always, you can go here for my post on the latest Google Algorithm Updates.


Google announcement - A reminder about guest posting and article syndication links

I sent an email out to all of my newsletter subscribers when this post was published. Here is the information:

Google published a new post this week. The post is titled, "A reminder about links in large scale article campaigns." You can read it here:

https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2017/05/a-reminder-about-links-in-large-scale.html?m=1

Now, this is just a reminder. In fact, nothing new is revealed in this article. However, in my opinion, there is a good chance that this is a warning about upcoming changes in terms of how Google views guest posting.

If you have used guest posting as a way to get links, don't panic. A few guest posts are not likely to get you into trouble. If you have used guest posting as a way to get LOTS of links, however, I think there is cause for concern.

Google's article says that some forms of guest posting are good:

"Google does not discourage these types of articles in the cases when they inform users, educate another site’s audience or bring awareness to your cause or company. "

They go on to explain what Google would take issue with:

"However, what does violate Google's guidelines on link schemes is when the main intent is to build links in a large-scale way back to the author’s site."

In doing hundreds of site reviews, I have seen the work of a large number of SEO agencies. I can tell you that many well known SEO companies are relying heavily on guest posting as a way to get links. It's one of the few tactics left that actually allows a site to create their own links rather than earn them. And that's just the problem. The reason why links matter is because they are editorial votes for a site. A link embedded in a guest post is generally not there because the site posting the link is vouching for you. It's there because it was either paid for, or because you provided them with content for their site.

Should you be worried about this announcement?

It remains to be seen whether Google will take action on large scale guest posting now that they have made this announcement. I have been saying for a few years now that Google was going to start cracking down on excessive use of guest posting. As such, I think that either of the following is possible:

1) Google may start to hand out more manual actions for sites that have a large number of self made links obtained via guest posting.

2) Google may find a way to algorithmically discount guest posting links.

I think that #2 is the most likely thing that will happen. When I bring this up in conversation people usually argue that it would be impossible for Google to algorithmically determine whether a link is a guest post link or not. Let me tell you...after doing hundreds of link audits, in most cases, it is super obvious to my eyes when a site is obtaining links by guest posting. I don't think it would be difficult for the Google engineers to create an algorithm that puts less (or no) weight on a guest posting link.

If this happens, this could mean that sites that relied heavily on guest posting in the past could see a slow decline in rankings as those links get discounted by the algorithm.

Should you make any changes?

If you're using this tactic to get links, it's probably best to either scale it down, or move on to finding more ways to attract links.

If you or a company acting on your behalf has used guest posting on a large scale, then I wouldn't make any changes as of yet. I do not think that you need to be disavowing links you obtained via guest posting. However, if I start seeing sites that are being penalized for large scale guest posting, then I may change my mind on this.

For more information on what you can do in terms of guest posting, this article that I wrote a few years ago is still quite relevant. It covers everything that Google employees have said on the topic:

Are you confused about guest posting? Here’s what Google says you can safely do.

Hopefully this email isn't too alarming to you. Again, I want to reiterate that nothing has changed and Google is simply reminding us of what they consider to be a link scheme.

I also would like to encourage you to brainstorm heavily on ways to truly get people to want to link to your site. More and more, Google is making it so that self made links are not helpful. If you can crack the nut of link earning, then this will give you a huge advantage over your competitors.

Update: Gary Illyes from Google stated that the post from Google was just a "gentle reminder" and not a herald of upcoming penalties.

 


I still think though that it is rare that Google announces something without a purpose behind the announcement. It wouldn't surprise me to see many guest post links devalued in the future.

What also may happen is that we may simply find that future guest posting efforts don't seem to be working.


Google Announcement - Write good meta descriptions

Google produced another blog post this week to encourage us to write good meta descriptions. The meta description is the part of text that Google often uses as a snippet below your listing on a search. Google will often rewrite your meta description if they think that they can produce one that is better for that particular search.

For example, take my article that ranks well for are footer links bad for seo?. Here is the meta description for this page:

<meta name="description" content="Not sure whether footer links are unnatural? This article summarizes everything John Mueller has said about footer links for the last couple of years."/>

But, when you do a search, here is what Google displays:

footer links snippet

Google has taken a snippet of text from my page that is most relevant to the query. And that's ok. It doesn't necessarily mean that my snippet is a bad one. It just means that there was a better option for that query.

With that said, if you see that Google is often rewriting your meta descriptions, it might be worthwhile to see if they are good ones. Many sites will use the same meta description for many pages or will stuff the meta description with keywords.

In the past, Google would often make a meta description out of what was listed on dmoz.org. But, now that dmoz.org has closed down, they can no longer do this. This means that if you have, <meta name=”robots” content=”noodp”> on your pages (to stop Google from using your Dmoz listing as a snippet, you can now remove that line. There's likely no harm in leaving it there though.


Google announcement - Your ads may be blocked by Chrome

Google is continuing to crack down on sites that show annoying or deceptive ads. They will now be providing a report in Google Search Console in which you can see whether your site has ads that could potentially be a problem.

 

You can find this report by going to Google Search Console --> Web Tools or by clicking on this link.

Most of the properties for which I am verified in GSC show that this report is still pending a review. I do have a couple of clients that have already been reviewed and have no problems:

Ad report GSC

I have a couple of sites for which I have done reviews recently where I really feel that they will NOT pass this test as they have a number of ads that are annoying to users. It will be interesting to see what appears once these sites get reviewed.

Please note that this is most likely looking at ads that are NOT normally run Adsense ads. If you show ads such as deceptive download buttons, autoplaying videos, etc. then these are the main concern.

 


I am not sure whether sites with ad issues will see drops in organic rankings once they get flagged. I'll let you know if I see this happening.

 


Amp News: You can apply to be part of a beta test allowing Amp pages as Adwords landing pages

If you use Amp pages, you may want to apply to be part of this beta test that allows you to use your Amp pages as landing pages for Adwords ads.

Full story here: https://www.seroundtable.com/google-adwords-amp-landing-pages-23898.html

Apply to be part of the beta here: https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/7399466

 


A new way to see non-personalized results?

A few people are noticing a new drop down menu option on Google searches that you can select to show non-personalized results:

hide private results

It looks like what this does is add &pws=0 to the end of the search url.

I tried a query for one of my sites that was ranking on the first page for a competitive term. When I did the search it was ranking at #6. When I clicked on hide private results it was ranking at #9. In other words, the results that are showing my site at #6 are personal to me because Google knows that I visit this website a lot.

Normally when I want to get non-personalized search results what I do is open up a new browser which I only use for checking rankings. I never click on any results. I'll now be testing to see whether simply selecting "hide personal results" accomplishes the same thing.


eCommerce store news: Changes to Google shopping feeds

If you use the Google shopping feed, you will want to pay attention to these changes that are taking effect June 26, 2017.


Don't block interstitials with robots.txt

For the newcomers, an interstitial is a large ad that appears as soon as a page loads. Google has a mobile interstitial algorithm which can demote a site if they show users a big full screen ad immediately upon entering the site from a search results click. Apparently some websites are trying to avoid the mobile interstitial penalty by hiding their interstitials via robots.txt.

John Mueller said in a hangout that this type of practice can be seen as cloaking and could lead to a penalty.


Productivity idea

This is a great idea by David Sottimano:

 

What he did was create an html page that had links to all of the pages that he visits on a regular basis. Then, he used this Chrome extension to make it so that whenever he opens a new tab in Chrome, his list of useful links opens up as his new tab page.


Recommended Reading

HTTPS on Stack Overflow: The End of a Long Road 

This is a monster of a read on how Stack Overflow switched to https. They had a lot of big issues to overcome. If you're thinking of an https switch, this is a really good article.

 

Stop overloading your Local SEO content!

This article by Greg Gifford talks about a common problem with local businesses who are trying to produce lots of content in order to rank for the same query in different cities. He explains how these can be considered doorway pages by Google.

 

Did Your Local Rankings Really Sink, or Are You Just Looking at Them Wrong?

Local rankings can be hard to check as there are many variables that can make it look like the rankings are better (or worse) than they truly are. This post helps you make sure that you are checking your rankings accurately.

 

We Surveyed Hundreds of SEOs and This is What We Found

If you offer SEO services, you'll find this an interesting read on the Advanced Web Ranking blog. Here are the points that I found interesting from this study:

  • 67% of marketers said that link building was their most difficult challenge.
  • 45% of marketers are automating their client reports.

 

What is a local citation

This article by Darren Shaw should be required for anyone who is trying to help a local business perform better online.

 

Tackling Tag Sprawl: Crawl Budget, Duplicate Content, and User-Generated Content

Great post on the Moz blog by Russ Jones which is helpful for large websites that have dynamic categories based on user generated content.

 

How does content marketing work?

A good overview of Content marketing by John Doherty

 

How to Delete a Google My Business Listing – A Common Question with a Complex Answer

This post by Miriam Ellis is an important read for anyone doing local SEO.

 

Featured Snippets - New Insights, New Opportunities

This is even more information on featured snippets. According to these tests, if your "regular snippet" in the search results is not three lines long, you likely will never get the featured snippet.

 

Early Test Results from Split Testing Javascript for SEO

This is a good SEO test on the Distilled blog. They took a site that relied heavily on Javascript and removed that reliance. Their tests showed a 6% increase in traffic to the non-javascript reliant pages.

 

Penalties vs algorithm changes - What's next?

I was honoured to be featured in a recent SEMRush Twitter chat. This post summarizes the great discussion we had.

 

12 things you can do today to get quality backlinks

These are great tips from GoFish Digital


Want more?

Paid subscribers of my newsletter received lots of additional information this week including the following:

  • A really useful tip on using Google Analytics to find and fix broken links that actually have the potential to bring traffic and PageRank to your site.
  • Thorough information on noindex vs robots.txt blocks. Step by step instructions on what to do if a robots.txt blocked page is appearing in the search results.
  • Information on Google's plan to produce an ad blocker and still pay publishers for their work.
  • Is there more domain crowding in the SERPS lately? What does this mean?
  • Does an increase or decrease in crawl rate mean that a Google algorithm is about to affect your site?
  • Tip: How to tell what new content your competitors are producing.

 


Note: If you are seeing the light version and you are a paid member, be sure to log in (in the sidebar on desktop or below the post on mobile) and read the full article here.

Want to see the full newsletter?

It's well worth the $18 per month!

You can subscribe to Dr. Marie Haynes' newsletter by clicking on the Paypal button below. You'll get an action packed email every two weeks.

You'll also have access to past episodes, including this one.


Part of the challenge of SEO is staying on top of industry news, trends, and techniques There is so much information out there that it is easy to get bogged down in information overload and trying to disseminate what's truly important from all that noise can be really time-consuming and challenging. 

Marie's newsletter is a game changer because it manages to cut through the fluff and deliver high-quality information that is not only really important for those that do SEO, but it is presented in a format that is really easy to absorb.
If you are looking for a trusted information related to search that is highly actionable I would strongly reccomend Marie's newsletter.
Paul Macnamara - Offers SEO Consulting at PaulMacnamara.com

I would love for you to leave a comment on any of the topics I have written today. Also, if there is something you would like to see more (or less) of in this newsletter, please let me know.

Read Previous Episodes of Marie's Newsletter.

 

Google update newsletter

Want an update when Google makes a big algorithm change or other announcement? Sign up here!

This is a weekly newsletter. We will never send spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit